The federal trial of R. Kelly, the famed R&B artist facing racketeering and sex trafficking charges in New York, begins Wednesday with opening remarks and testimony. Kelly, 54, faces decades in jail if convicted.

Robert Kelly faces many accusations of abuse and sexual assault in Illinois in addition to the New York indictments. Both legal actions sprang from two decades of sexual misconduct accusations against Robert Kelly, who was previously convicted of charges of child pornography in 2008.

Why is Robert Kelly on trial?

Robert Kelly is on trial in New York on accusations of racketeering and violating the Mann Act, which criminalises interstate sex trafficking. The allegations date all the way back to March 2020, as federal prosecutors in NY detailed them in an indictment that included abduction, racketeering, forced labour, and sexual exploitation of minors charges from the previous year.

The July 2019 federal indictment coincided with another in Illinois, which featured obstruction of justice and child pornography among its 13 counts. Both charges came just months after Kelly was indicted on a state level with ten counts of severe criminal sexual assault.

The musician, whose given name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, has rejected the charges levelled against Robert Kelly.

Why was the trial delayed?

R. Kelly’s trial in Brooklyn federal court was postponed owing to the covid outbreak, as well as superseding charges brought in last year’s  February and March by Illinois and New York prosecutors, respectively.

Previously, opening remarks were planned for Aug. 9, the day of jury selection. However, Kelly changed legal counsel in July, and his new counsel sought more time to prepare its case.

Kelly’s federal trial in Chicago, which was scheduled to begin after this one, was similarly postponed by the epidemic.

Why is Robert Kelly already in jail?

A federal court in July 2019, ordered Kelly’s detention without bail, arguing that if the singer “was drawn to middle school kids in 1999, he is now attracted to middle school girls.” Kelly was moved for the trial from Chicago to New York earlier this summer.

When did this all begin?

Jim DeRogatis, then a music journalist for the Chicago Sun-Times, got information in 2000 that Kelly, one of the 1990s’ most popular R&B singers, had a “problem” with young females. DeRogatis joined with the Sun-Times legal affairs writer Abdon Pallasch to research the tip, and together they found numerous lawsuits filed against Kelly over the preceding decade alleging sexual abuse of girls.

That December, the Sun-Times released an exposé, with DeRogatis serving as the lead journalist. He got a DVD in the mail a few years later that seemed to show Kelly assaulting an underage female. The video was at the center of Kelly’s 2008 child pornography prosecution, but he was acquitted because his defense team claimed the girl’s identification was inconclusive.

Years later, the Sun-Times quoted Kelly’s defense attorney as saying that Kelly was guilty to the highest extent.

What about Aaliyah?

Kelly married Aaliyah in 1994, when she was 15 years old and he was 27 years old, after collaborating with her on her first album, “Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number.” According to DeRogatis and Pallasch, Aaliyah terminated the unlawful marriage when her family and the public learned about it.